Viral traffic is a very specific kind of traffic.
For one thing, it comes out of nowhere. You can’t predict when it’ll hit, and you can’t keep it around when the fad ends and people abandon your site for the next big thing. For another thing, it might not be made up of people who are actually interested in your site as a whole. Something brought them there, possibly a good video or infographic, but that doesn’t mean they want to buy your product. Viral users are followers, they aren’t buyers.
So what’s the point? If viral traffic isn’t made up of customers, it’s just a drain on your server resources and a boost to your traffic stats. When it’s all over, you might have a higher base level of traffic than you had before the surge, but then again, you might not. Going viral isn’t necessarily even a good thing, if it brings to light some shady dealings in your past that you’d rather remained forgotten.
Ideally, then, you wouldn’t count on viral traffic to be beneficial at all. You should just take advantage of it while it’s there to do what only a high traffic surge can do, and then let it go gracefully and fade back into the status quo.
Just about the only way to create a long-term benefit out of viral traffic is to grab a hold of that traffic, wrangle email addresses out of it, and let it go. It’s sort of like a catch and release program for thousands of individual viewers.
The idea works like this: you notice a viral surge starting, and you need to act quickly. The first thing you do is figure out what you can give away in exchange for an email opt-in. It might be an ebook, it might be something you throw together based on whatever content is going viral, it might be something you already had going on a deep discount. Regardless of the product, you put it behind a gate and require an email signup to get it.
Don’t immediate start pushing newsletters down their throats. Most viral users aren’t paying too much attention to what they’re doing; they see popular content and want to watch it. The opt-in might be tertiary to their goals, but if you start throwing advertisements in their inbox, they’ll unsubscribe right away. Give it a bit of time and develop a newsletter campaign specifically for viral users.
CPA, or Cost Per Action, are sort of like affiliate links that don’t require a product sale in order to earn you some cash.
If you can find some good CPA offers to run relating to your viral content, you automatically have a briefly dominant position in the niche. They might not convert at a high percentage, but you’re not looking for quality out of viral users, you’re looking for quantity. Be cautious, however; putting a CPA block in front of the content can kill your viral surge in its tracks.
PPM ads, in this case, refers to ads that pay you per view. These are typically a bad proposition on most sites, because they don’t pay much due to how easy it is to game the traffic numbers. You need to carefully pick the right ad network, because some will see your viral traffic and block you because it looks fake or purchased.
One good option here is AdSense, actually. Google understands viral traffic and, what’s more, understands what sort of ads it can run to those visitors. Some good AdSense ads on your site during the viral surge can be a good way to make some extra cash. Just don’t go overboard with AdSense, CPA and other advertising all at once; you’ll end up looking very transparent and will likely be called on it by your existing pre-viral readers.
If your site or business happens to sell a product or service, a viral surge is a great time to offer a discount. You have a lot of incoming volume, and while a good portion of those users won’t be interested in your product, some of them will be.
One good way to offer this discount is with an exit intent pop-up lightbox script. These scripts can be seen all over the Internet these days. They monitor the position of the user’s cursor and when the window loses focus or when the cursor moves towards the close button, the screen dims and a pop-up appears.
These pop-ups are great for a few reasons. They’re not timed, so they don’t disrupt the user in their experience. This is important, because they’re here for that experience, due to your viral content. If you’re obstructing that content, you’re losing your traffic. They also distract the user when they’re going to close the tab or window, giving them a chance to opt-in or buy as an afterthought. It’s a great way to keep users on your site a little bit longer, possibly encouraging them to explore more rather than go back to whatever they were doing before.
If you happen to have a new product in development, or a new update in the works, a viral surge can be a good time to roll out a new release. Hype it up with the incoming traffic, plaster announcements all over your site, and generally encourage everyone to check it out. Ideally, the content that went viral has something to do with your product, and you can leverage that interest into preorders or sales.
Sometimes, the content that went viral isn’t on a commercial site. Maybe it’s just a cleverly told personal anecdote on a casual blog. Maybe it’s a documentation of dealings with a corporate entity or a scammer. Maybe it’s just particularly witty discourse you post regularly.
In these cases, you can’t monetize as such, but chances are you as a person are being targeted with quite a bit of interest. Radio shows and TV programs often run morning show segments on viral stars, and you can capitalize on your fifteen minutes of fame to get your foot in the door with various important industry personages. How you swing it, though, will be highly individual.
Of course, there’s the final option. Your site has a surge in viral traffic, and that surge will take a month or so to fully die down. You can leverage this to try to sell your site to someone looking for a quick flip. You won’t get a huge price for it as if you had that traffic year-round, but you might be able to sell it for more than it’s actually worth to someone who doesn’t look too closely. Of course, this isn’t a great option if you’re personally attached to the site; it’s a decision you have to make.
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